And, as retailers expand on the mainland, headhunters expect large brands to hire more marketing officers and management trainees.
"Last year, many retailers, especially those in the luxury sector, were not hiring," says Connie Au, divisional manager of sales and marketing recruitment at Ambition.
"Many of them are now [reinstating] headcounts and creating new roles, particularly in the apparel, skincare and cosmetic businesses."
Nicole Lui, associate director of sales and marketing, information technology and telecom division at Robert Walters, says the luxury retail and FMCG sectors are also looking for marketing professionals with internet experience, such as online marketing managers whose role is to promote brand or product awareness in cyberspace.
The demand has spread to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that need to promote themselves despite limited budgets. "SMEs have good products but nobody knows about them," says Alfred Tsoi, vice-president and managing director for Yahoo! Hong Kong.
Online marketing services, such as advertising on pages displaying results from search engine queries, can level the playing field for SMEs.
"When users are seeking out [the type of product or service your company provides], your ad will be shown to them," Tsoi says.
He says online advertising spending grew last year even when many firms cut television marketing budgets.
Revenue for Yahoo! Hong Kong's search advertising service, launched in 2005, has increased more than tenfold over the past five years.
However, online marketing professionals are few and Lui says talent is often drawn from the United States and Europe.
Au suggests young marketers try digital marketing and learn on the job.
"The pool of talent during the next five to 10 years will remain small, so those who have the experience will have more career options," she says.
Selling in cyberspace
- The Hong Kong Design Institute and Yahoo! Hong Kong offer a professional diploma in strategic online advertising, with certificate courses from digital to search engine marketing. For information, visit www.hkdi.edu.hk/peec.
- Stay plugged in with the Hong Kong Association of Interactive Marketing, which organises regular events, including conferences and sharing sessions for marketing and IT professionals. Check out www.hkaim.org.
- Marketers should also brush up their language skills, master the art of effective presentation, learn how to listen and accept negative comments, and know how to manage customer complaints and queries.